Florida Gators

Gators defense dominant in rout over South Carolina

todayNovember 12, 2022

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By Hays Carlyon

GAINESVILLE – I never dreamed I’d see this.

Not this season.

A dominant defensive performance? From the Gators?

What seemed impossible two weeks ago became a reality Saturday.

Florida’s defense continued the strong play that began in a second-half comeback win at Texas A&M last week with an even better effort against South Carolina at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

The Gators didn’t allow a point defensively, routing the Gamecocks 38-6 in front of 89,454 fans. South Carolina scored off a fake punt. The Gators (6-4, 3-4) held South Carolina (6-4, 3-4) to 237 total yards.

That’s six quarters of shut out football for the defense. Texas A&M didn’t score in the second half of Florida’s 41-24 victory.

This defensive gem was sparked by an avalanche of South Carolina fumbles to start the third quarter, with the Gators leading 24-6. The Gamecocks lost three fumbles on their first four plays of the second half.

Safety Rashad Torrence forced and recovered a fumble.

Behemoth defensive tackle Desmond Watson simply took the ball away from a South Carolina running back. The 415-pound sophomore returned the ball 8 yards to the Gamecocks 12.

The final fumble in the flurry was forced by safety Kamari Wilson and recovered by safety Trey Dean.

Florida coach Billy Napier’s decision to dismiss outside linebacker Brenton Cox from the team obviously has paid dividends.

The Gators have found some young playmakers on the edge in Princely Umanmielen and Antwaun Powell-Ryland. The two combined for 1.5 sacks against South Carolina.

Veterans like linebackers Ventrell Miller and Amari Burney, as well as Dean were able to close their Senior Days with big-time efforts. Miller and Burney each made four tackles, with Miller making two behind the line. Dean made an excellent third-down tackle to force a punt in addition to his fumble recovery.

Napier also has the Gators playing complimentary football.

UF’s offense got the running game going early. The Gators had run for 225 yards with 6:30 to play in the second quarter.

Montrell Johnson led the pack with 24 carries for 161 yards and a touchdown. Freshman running back Trevor Etienne broke an 85-yard touchdown run. He finished with 100 yards on eight carries.

At one point, UF had three players over 100 yards rushing: Johnson, Etienne and quarterback Anthony Richardson. A sack put Richardson under for the game at 96. The Gators have only had three players rush for 100 yards in a game one time: Oct. 20, 1984 vs. Cincinnati when Neal Anderson, John L. Williams and James Massey all did it.

This was the kind of night the Gators needed in The Swamp on Senior Night in front of a bunch of recruits.

Drama free.

The defense was outstanding. The offense was humming on the ground. A dismal special teams performance was the lone concern. UF also had two unsuccessful field goal attempts and gave up a 37-yard punt return.

However, I suppose it can slide when the defense doesn’t allow a point and the offense gains 515 yards.

The Gators now can start making bowl preparations, which wasn’t a given two weeks ago. They might even be headed to a pretty good one if they can take down Vanderbilt and Florida State on the road to close out the regular season.

The way this Gators defense is improving, an 8-4 finish with a four-game winning streak isn’t out of the question.

That would likely keep Florida in the state for its bowl game, which always helps the recruiting efforts.

Napier is making strides. We’re seeing it on the recruiting trail and on the field.

These Gators have stuck together and are playing their best football of the season.

Exciting times might be on the way for Gator Nation.

(You can email Hays at haysc@1010xl.com and follow him on Twitter @HaysCarlyon).

Written by: 1010admin


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